Cooking for 8: Kid Snacks on a Budget

Cooking for 8.snacks

A facebook conversation today has inspired a new (hopefully weekly!) series on how I feed my larger than average, and hungry, family–without breaking the bank.

I have a few guidelines for the recipes and tips I will share over the next few weeks:

  1. I have a very basic kitchen. I have an old school electric range, and an oven that I have to remember to add 40 degrees to the temperature in the recipe. . .it is old, but it works–sort of.
  2. We have been blessed with no food sensitivities.
  3. I have some nice kitchen tools, such as a Kitchen aid Mixer and a nice food processor thanks to generous sponsors and my years as a blogger. For the purposes of this series, I will not be using them.
  4. I adore pretty produce from the farmer’s market and I like choosing choice cuts of meat from a good meat market. However, for the purposes of this series, my shopping is at Walmart. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that Walmart is fairly universally available. Also, let’s be honest, it is, hands down, the cheapest place to pick up groceries without having to clip coupons and hunt down sales. (and really, coupons on things like apples and bananas are like unicorns).
  5. My family enjoys protein-heavy meals. We could likely slash our food budget with one or two meatless meals, but I would have an unhappy and hungry crew. I will teach you how I feed my family a protein rich, satisfying, diet.

So, to start out with my first post, I’m going to share how we handle snacking in our family of eight.

Let’s face it. Kids are hungry creatures. They could eat all. Day. Long. if we let them. And, there are times when they do need a constant state of noshing–growth spurts being one of them. However, as every summertime parent can attest, sometimes kid just eat, and eat and eat–not necessarily out of hunger.

Dakotapam’s House Rules for Snacking:

  • I keep a produce drawer full of apples and oranges (also peaches and plums in season). These are “free” snacks for the kids. They don’t have to ask for them and can grab them and eat them. The sub-rule is a 15 minute wait in between a snack of fruit to allow their brains to catch up with their stomachs.
  • Often (especially in summer) thirst is masked as hunger. I encourage the kids to drink a lot of water during the day.
  • Boredom masks as hunger. And mindless snacking occurs when electronics are involved. So, with the exception of popcorn during a movie night, screens and snacks don’t mix.  Snacks, even a piece of fruit, is eaten at the kitchen table.
  • Kids love snacks like grapes, and berries, but too much can lead to <ahem> undesirable consequences. So I serve proper serving sizes of berries and grapes and teach the kids to savor and enjoy them.
  • On days when we are all home (like in summer) I schedule snacks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I try to add a protein to the snack to give it some “staying power”. I prep a lot of these on the weekend and keep them in my other produce drawer in the fridge. Some ideas are: hard boiled eggs,  string cheese (sometimes I buy big blocks of cheese and cut my own), peanut butter with apples or celery, homemade granola with yogurt, carrots and ranch dressing, ham rolled with cream cheese. Keep in mind that these snacks should be mindful, and, really, a mini-meal, to keep energy levels steady and stave off being “hangry”.

Remember that setting guidelines for snacking is not cruel, and you are not “depriving” your children. In reality, you are teaching them a healthy relationship to food and healthy eating habits.  It is important to me that my children recognize their food cues and that they eat when they are hungry, and sometimes for fun and celebration, but not out of boredom and not to attempt to boost their mood.

Now, as for junk food. I have teenagers, and I am a realist, so I keep it around. Because, let’s be real here, potato chips taste really good. I’ve started buying chips in snack sized bags. This seems more expensive, but, in reality, I spend a lot less on chips. Because, once again, the portion control cuts down on mindless snacking. The boys are allowed to grab a single bag of chips for a snack. If they are still “hungry”, they are welcome to have an apple or an orange. Most of the time they find that that one little bag each fills their need. Before this I was having the three of them devour a family size bag of chips in an evening. Nobody needs that many chips–not even “growing teens”.

I hope you have found these tips helpful and I’d love to hear how you help your kids snack healthy and on a budget. Feel free to use the comment section to continue the conversation.

Super Tuna Sandwich Recipe

Brownberrry Bread Disclosure: The coupons for product redemption, information, and gift card have been provided by Brownberry® Bread so that I could try the product and share my thoughts and information about Brownberry®. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the opinions of Brownberry® Bread.

What would make Dakotapastor smile AND agree to appear on my blog? He came home from church yesterday and I had made him lunch. Not just any lunch, but a lunch of my super delicious tuna salad on some hearty Brownberry® bread. (Nutty Almond, to be precise). And yes, he IS using a fork to eat his sandwich; partly because he is weird that way, and partly because the sandwich was rather, um, full.

After a busy Sunday morning at church, Dakotapastor often arrives home famished. I’m about 50% for remembering this, but yesterday was a good day. I have tweaked my tuna salad recipe for years, but it is really finally to the point where I don’t have to think much about it. Even the kids love it, though they will comment that they found an onion or a celery piece (as if that is a bad thing!). While the kids prefer theirs on white bread (who can blame them?), they also will eat it on a whole grain bread–if that bread is really good. Nutty Almond passed that test!

A few facts about Brownberry® Bread:

  • All of Brownberry® Whole Grain Sliced Breads and Brownberry® Sandwich Thins® Rolls contain/are:

o   3 to 4 grams of fiber per slice or thin

o   Zero grams of Trans Fat

o   No High Fructose Corn Syrup

o   Cholesterol free

  • The newly launched Brownberry® Healthfull® bread varieties contain/are:

o   Made with 100% whole grains

o   Good source of fiber

o   80 calories per serving

o   No High Fructose Corn Syrup

o   Heart healthy

o   Zero grams of Trans Fat

Do you have a great sandwich recipe?

ABS Contest Logo

  • Brownberry® Bread is excited to launch the second annual “America’s Better Sandwich” Contest! The sandwich architect whose filling matches the goodness of Brownberry® Bread will win a grand prize of $25,000.
  • Before entering an original better sandwich, entrants should make sure their recipes include any of the Brownberry® Whole Grain Sliced Breads, including the new Healthfull® bread varieties, or any of the Brownberry® Sandwich Thins® Rolls varieties.
  • This year’s contest includes five (5) exciting sandwich categories including:
  • “Creative Classics” (nutritious spins on sandwich creations that have stood the test of time, such as grandma’s club sandwich, BLT or other old-time favorites)
  • “Fueling Good” (these sandwiches should incorporate ingredients that help boost your energy such as healthful fats, protein, fiber and iron)
  • “Open-Face Artistry” (sandwiches are works of art for the world to see, and these snacks and meals announce their ingredients—like sharp cheddar or tasty tuna— sans second slice, highlighting bold colors and textures)
  • “Breakfast in Bread” (these sandwiches, featuring nutritious breakfast favorites like eggs and yogurt, invoke images of cozy mornings in bed or boisterous brunches with friends)
  • “Love, Healthfully” (celebrate our new Healthfull® Breads with innovative recipes that play off nuanced, foodie-approved ingredients like honey, flax and sunflower seeds)
  • The recipe in each sandwich category with the highest score will receive a $5,000 category prize.
  • Entries will be accepted June 15th – August 23rd, online consumer voting will take place September 21st – October 18th, and the winners will be announced on National Sandwich Day- November 3rd.
  • Brownberry® bread will donate one loaf of bread (up to 100,000 loaves) to Feeding America for each valid entry submission during the entry period and vote received during the online voting phase of the 2015 “America’s Better Sandwich” Contest

Giveaway time!

The folks at Brownberry® are super generous and are giving one of my readers a gift pack that includes:

– $25 Visa gift card
– One  coupon, valid for $5.00 off the purchase of any Brownberry® Whole Grain Sliced Bread of choice
– One coupon, valid for $5.00 off the purchase of any Brownberry® Sandwich Thins® Rolls of choice
– One coupon, each valid for $5.00 off the purchase of any Brownberry® Healthfull® Bread of choice

Just enter using the handy-dandy Rafflecopter widget below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway



LeapPad Platinum Review

LeapPad Platinum review


Disclosure: LeapFrog sent me a LeapPad Platinum and the PAW Patrol Imagicard game in order to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

LeapPad Platinum Review

We have been enjoying LeapFrog products for a long time, my oldest is 19 and learned to count and learn ABCs with a LeapFrog Learning bus.

Our younger children are really enjoying this latest offering from LeapFrog. The LeapPad Platinum tablet is a kid-friendly tablet that allows for fun, educational game play as well as safe web-surfing.

The seven inch touch screen displays crisp graphics, and as an impatient mom, I totally appreciate the increased processor speed. The battery life is long, between 5 and 7 hours depending on activity, and can be charged with USB or AC adapter. No batteries needed! Win!

All of our older LeapPad cartridges work in this LeapPad, and we can also share downloaded content purchased for our older devices as well. I have twin daughters, so I appreciate that I can download a game once and both girls can have the game on their own devices. This is a great savings for us (plus, let’s face it, those cartridges get lost.) There are over 1,000 games and apps available, and if you watch sales on you can get some great deals!

This is a kid tough and kid friendly tablet and my girls love the lease of use. I admit to even having fun playing some of the games–you never quite outgrow the joy of leveling up.

My girls love the dual cameras and the video recorder and have fun playing the the included Photo Fun Utility.

One of my favorite new features is the enhanced parental controls. There is now an option to set a time limit for playing and then the device shuts down for a preset amount of time. This is a great way to help limit screen time.

The LeapPad Platinum includes 8GB of memory and 10 apps (music player plus 10 songs, Pet Pad Party, Pet Chat, Photo fun Ultra, five Utility Apps, and a choice of App download).

This is the perfect, age appropriate tablet for the 9 and under set. My twin five year-olds give it two thumbs up!

PAW Patrol Imagicard Game Review

This game has been the biggest hit with my five year-old twin daughters.

The package includes a collectable tin, the Imagicards (and they are sturdy–much thicker than a standard playing card) a fold out play mat to sort the cards onto, and a downloadable game. And this is the key for a family with multiples: the game is downloadable so can be played, at the same time, by more than one child. When a new game comes into the house, this is a HUGE bonus!

This game arrived in the mail while my girls were off visiting grandparents, so I had a chance to play-test it myself, and I’m not ashamed to say that I really enjoyed playing the game. It is engaging and goal driven.

This is the perfect game to get my girls warmed up for Kindergarten. It covers numbers 1-20, basic shapes, patterns, sorting, and some basic arithmetic. My girls may be twins, but they are not the same, and the game adjusts seamlessly for their skill level.

On a rainy day it kept them both occupied, entertained, and quarrel free for hours! They don’t watch a lot of TV, but were somewhat familiar with the Paw Patrol characters. However, the game plays fine if you have no knowledge of the show. The storyline in the game is self contained.

I think it is clever how the cards work within the game; when a card is “scanned”, or photographed, the characters leap onto the screen. The game can also be played without the cards, as there is a digital card gallery included. I find it interesting that one of my girls likes to physically flip through the cards, while my other prefers the digital gallery.

This game is prefect for children from 3-5 years.

Buy It:

LeapPad Platinum on and

PAW Patrol Imagicard game on and


Great Kid Ideas for Summer



Summer Fun

Photo: “Sprinkler Karate” By Lotus Carroll

Like most moms, I want my kids to have a fun summer, but I don’t want them trashing the house, binge watching Netflix (that is for moms only!) or eating 10 bags of chips a day.

So I have been checking around to come up with some fun (and educational) ideas for summer.

I love our public library Summer Reading program,  but I admit that I don’t get the kids in to check off their sheets often enough. . .plus the program ends a full month before school starts! So, this year I am downloading this fun (and free) program.

We tend to do a great job keeping our kids reading all summer, but what about math? Our 13 year old began using Khan Academy at school this year, and I grew to love the website. It is a totally free program that will virtually tutor you, and your kids in math from kindergarten through college! The interface is fun and intuitive. I’m feeding off of the competitive nature of my 11 and 13 year-olds by setting them up at the same level of math and letting them “race” to the finish! IF you have teens you will want to look into the brand new launch of the FREE SAT prep course through Khan Academy that was created in cooperation of the College Board.

How fun would it be to have Summer Camp at Home? I think we will be trying some of these ideas!

I would love to cook through a cookbook with my kids this summer. Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)looks fun. I might also want to try Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family Friendly Experiments from Around the House (Hands-On Family)or ChopChop: The Kids’.

I’m always looking for art projects for the kids that do not take a lot of prep work for me, and that won’t make a huge mess.

I’m also having all four of the little ones (13 down to 5, so not so little!) do a chore of the day. This week I really hope we can get to my front garden beds, and just maybe I will plant something!

I’m starting a Pinterest Board for Summer ideas, and I would love to have you all join in! If you want to be invited to pin to the board, simply follow it and leave your email in the comments and I will send you an invite!
Follow’s board Summer 2015 ideas on Pinterest.

What are you up to this summer with your kids? I’d love to hear!




A Little Like a Whole New Me

These past two years have brought on a lot of changes for me.

  • I took on a full time job
  • My oldest kid graduated and went to college
  • My youngest two can dress and feed themselves (this is HUGE!)
  • I’m a MUCH more confident version of me
  • I’m finally, ever so slowly, getting into shape

Did you see that last one? One of my more popular posts is this one on weight loss. And I stand by that. I still try to eat more real, whole foods rather than super processed ones. I still have my Fitbit, and my job is still fairly sedentary. BUT I have added in a gym membership and a supportive friend. I may or may not have lost any weight. . . I don’t own a scale. . .but I have lost inches. I’ve dropped at least a pant size, maybe two.

I’m finally comfortable in my own skin.

I’m not really at my “after” point. . .but I don’t freak out when I see photos of myself anymore!

For example, here I am the other day, accepting a donation for work. I’m not skinny by any stretch, but I also did not feel the need to hide completely behind that check, or do that silly stick my butt out and lean forward to look smaller thing that I’ve seen suggested. And those pants! I just picked those up a month ago and was thrilled to go down a size, but YOU GUYS, they are actually a little loose! I'm shrinking

*side note: If you are local, go thank the folks at Kupper Chevrolet! They donate $25 per car sold for an entire week and April and donate to our organization! (They actually do this all year long and donate to 52 local non-profits. . .how cool is that?)

So, as I began shrinking, I once again began to really care about how I looked. I wanted to look put-together. But I do not have a huge clothes budget, shrinking or not! I never really did get a grasp of how clothes work together. For all of my love of playing with paper dolls as a little girl, if left to my own devices, I’d perpetually dress like a Catholic school kid, with hhaki chinos and a navy blue polo; or like the Target lady with the same chinos and a red top.

So, one day, due to the magic of Facebook, I discovered the blog “Get Your Pretty On”. Allison makes fashion look so easy. I was immediately drawn to her very doable, teachable, capsule wardrobe. I love that her style challenges have a shopping list of very specific pieces that all work together, and then she leads you through 21 days of that wardrobe. I learned to put clothing items together that I never would have, and I tried new items that were outside of my comfort zone (like those super cute white denim crops up there, that I would have passed right by in the store!).

I was able to clean out my closet and take out the things that don’t fit or don’t work, and now I know I am left with clothes that I love and that work together. Having Allison is like having a very fashion competent and budget savvy little sister. I love that Allison styles clothing for the way real women shop and dress: comfortable shoes and cute tops from Target!

There is a new Summer Challenge coming up, and I’d love for you to join me!

This graphic has a sneak peek of one of the outfits. Those shorts will likely become a skirt for me, because I work in an office :) But I look forward to getting some on-trend seasonal advice and some fun in my closet. It is likely that I already have quite a few of the pieces, and we are always to shop our closets first. Who is in??

%d bloggers like this: